Hayden takes credit for slight drop in crime

May 05, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

While officials elsewhere credited the winter's icy weather with a decrease in first quarter crime, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden credited his administration yesterday as he trumpeted a slight drop in criminal activity before a Chamber of Commerce audience.

In his State of the County address at a Timonium luncheon, Mr. Hayden cited his efforts at encouraging community anti-crime patrols and freeing more county officers for street patrols, and his recent decision to allow 31 of the county's 1,500 officers to drive patrol cars home.

He also cited a policy change allowing off-duty officers to wear their uniforms while moonlighting at area malls and the posting of anti-crime billboards that Penn Advertising and McDonald's restaurants have paid for around the county.

"Has all of this helped our citizens feel and actually be safer from crime?" he asked.

He answered by citing an 8.7 percent drop in violent crime during the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 1993, a fractional drop in serious crime and a 2.2 percent drop in overall crime.

Baltimore City police cited similar first-quarter declines in serious crime last week but gave some credit to the cold, snow and ice that kept many citizens, law-abiding and otherwise, off the streets.

As did the city, Baltimore County reported a sharp increase in car thefts that seemed to buck the bad weather trend.

While murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and arson were down slightly, vehicle thefts were up 19.4 percent in Baltimore County -- a reversal of the trend in 1993, when vehicle thefts declined.

Acura Legends, Honda Accords, Chevrolet Blazers and Jeep Cherokees were the most popular targets -- especially in the Towson area. Police said 78.4 percent of stolen vehicles are recovered, indicating that most are taken by joy riders.

Although overall robberies dropped during the first quarter, bank robbery was much more popular, rising from 18 cases to 31 -- a 72 percent increase.

Mr. Hayden, who is seeking re-election this year, didn't mention vehicle thefts or bank robberies in his otherwise upbeat speech, and county police offered no specific explanations for the ups and downs of the crime reports.

Sgt. Stephen A. Doarnberger, a police spokesman, said that if bad weather explained crime trends, one would expect car thefts to decline and aggravated assaults to increase as people suffering from cabin fever grated on the nerves of one another during the winter. But assaults were down 10 percent, and vehicle thefts were up sharply.

Generally, the first quarter's lower figures reflected full-year trends in 1993, when crime declined by 3.5 percent overall, and robbery was the only one of eight serious crime categories to show any increase.

The largest decline in early 1994 was in burglary, down by 17.6 percent, or 287 cases. Sergeant Doarnberger said burglaries have been declining for years, and he said that longer, mandatory prison terms for career burglars have had an impact. The General Assembly this year dropped burglary from the list of serious crimes that generate mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders. Baltimore County prosecutors have said they will push to have burglary restored in next year's legislative session.

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